Friday, January 29, 2010

Beware the Tigress

Elan Woods was recently seen on a street in Sweden. Although the scarf and sunglasses implied that she was trying to travel incognito, it was obvious to this photographer that, in fact, it was Mrs. Woods. In an attempt to get the exclusive, he stood in the shadows of a doorway waiting to see why she was standing there looking around. Suddenly her head turned as she heard a car coming around the corner from the direction opposite of where she had been staring.

Her smile broadened. The photographer was clicking capturing every move she made.

The car pulled up to the curb in front of her. She waited. The driver stepped out, pulled her close and kissed her passionately. He then helped her into the car and closed the door, circling the car to get in beside her.

"Do you think anyone saw you? The street looked pretty deserted," he said.

"I don't think so unless they were looking out a window," she replied. "Even so, I don't think anyone would recognize me in this part of town."

"Did you send out the checks? That was a brilliant idea," he said, laughing. "I've missed you so much. How are the children? I can't wait to see them. The photos I've seen of the island in the news look spectacular."

"Oh, wait 'til you see it. It's like heaven on earth. By the way, I'm glad to see that your face has healed. The surgeon did a great job. I'm sorry I hit you so hard."

"We'll finally get to spend some time together as a family. Away from the cameras, away from the tour. As for losing the endorsements, who cares? After all, when it comes to money, how much is enough? When I'm ready to go back out, I'll do an interview with Oprah or Barbara Walters and then hit the tour again. In the meanwhile, I'll just keep practicing on the private course we bought over here."

"Meanwhile, I'll keep hiring the wanna-be actors to be seen at sex rehab centers all over the US and then in other parts of the world. That will keep the media happy for awhile."

He put the car in gear and drove away.

The photographer was so excited that he almost dropped his camera as he put it in the case. He ran around the corner, jumped in his car and sped home to his computer to upload the images. The bidding would now begin.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

One year anniversary since Leroy Cooper passed

This photo shows Leroy in Houston with friends. It was taken a couple of years before his passing. Leroy, of course, is the smiling man holding his bariton sax. To his left are John Bryant, drummer, and Ernest Vantrease (the Deacon), keyboard player.

This week marks the one year anniversary since we lost Leroy Cooper and his music. It occurred to me that his passing took place on January 15, 2009 but at the time, I didn't realize that the date was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. My focus was so glued to my friend, Leroy, that I completely missed the significance of the date.

The next morning, when Leroy's wife called to tell me of his passing, I spent much of the day contacting his friends and musicians who knew him, both personally and by reputation, to give them the news. The news was shocking at the time. I had seen Leroy weeks before and done a final interview for the book about his life. During that interview he had given me a valuable piece of information which he had withheld up until that point. I didn't know it would be the last thing on his mind to share.

Of course there was sadness. I miss him still. I listen to the recordings of his voice, telling me his stories and I can see him in my mind. I listen to Ray Charles' CDs and pay special attention to the horns, hearing Leroy bringing up the bottom.

Leroy Cooper was a gentle soul. For anyone who has forgotten, his passing was followed by two of his friends and sax players, David 'Fathead' Newman and Hank Crawford. Last January was one of great loss to the music world.

During 2009, I attended five funerals, Leroy's being the first. Three of them were personal friends, all under 60 years old, and one was another musician and friend, Billy Hall, also in his 50's. It was a year of loss.

Now that we are into a new year, I look back and realize that as much as I miss Leroy, he was 80 years old when he died. He lived a very full life, which has been chronicled and will be published this spring. The other friends that I lost were so young to pass on, some after long years of suffering, others more suddenly.

The sadness is deep for all but I celebrate Leroy's life and am grateful that he did not suffer from a long illness. I watched him grow older during the few years that I knew him. Towards the last year, his physical strength weakened and his final show he played the alto in lieu of the baritone saxophone because he just didn't have the lung power to blow that big horn anymore. That was five days before he died.

January 22 will be the anniversary of his memorial service. My thoughts are with his family who miss him more than I do, I'm sure. Although he was a quiet man, his presence in the household was a calming one and his smile always sweet.

It is important that Leroy is not forgotten. He leaves a long legacy of music and a life that was defined by it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Nice shirt

“Nice shirt,” Marsha said to the man next to her in the terminal. “Is it a designer?”

“J.C. Penney,” Carl answered with a chuckle.

“Really? I never shop there. Did you get it in the city?” she asked.

“At the mall. I live out in western Pennsylvania,” he said, “near a big mall. I fly in once a week to meet with the execs.”

“Can you believe I’ve never been to a mall? I live in Manhattan and shop mostly on Fifth Avenue,” Marsha told Carl. “I’ve seen clips of them on TV and they look dreadful to me. I can’t imagine being closed into a little city full of stores. What’s the fun? No pretzel vendors and all.”

“Well, they have a food court. They have a pretzel place there called Auntie Ann’s and those pretzels are sinful! Not like the thick ones you get from the street vendors in the city but delicious just the same.”

“A food court?” Marsha exclaimed. “What on earth is that?”

“A kind of courtyard full of tables surrounded by different fast food counters. They’ve got a pizza place, a McDonalds, Chick Fil-A, Subway, Taco Bell. Oh and I think they have a Cajun joint, too. Plus there are ice cream and dessert counters,” Carl explained.

“Why would you put all those in one place?” Marsha asked with astonishment. Bizarre as it sounded to him, her question was sincere so Carl smiled.

“Consider this,” he said. “On a Saturday, you go to the mall with the family. Your kids need shoes, your wife wants to look at jewelry, I need this shirt, for instance, or whatever. Everyone gets in the car and we go to the mall. We wander around in the climate controlled environment with skylights in the ceiling that let the natural light shine through.”

“You’re kidding! They have skylights at the mall?” Marsha asked.

“Yup. We shop a little and then go to the food court and the kids can get pizza or a Happy Meal and my wife can get gourmet coffee and I can get a sub. We all sit down together with our different food and eat while we watch children playing on a huge slide surrounded by the tables. It’s kind of a family outing but we don’t all have to eat the same food. They have a multiplex, there, too.”

“What’s a multiplex?”

“You’ve never heard of a multiplex? It’s a movie theater – well it’s a bunch of movie theaters all in one place with different movies playing in them. They have stadium seating so you don’t have to worry about some guy with a big head sitting in front of you and blocking your view like in Seinfeld,” Carl explained. “We can all see the same movie together or the kids can watch a G-rated movie while my wife and I go and watch something a little more, uh, mature.”

“I can’t picture it. No cars, no weather. No hoards of people rushing down the sidewalks. No skateboards or bicycles. They don’t allow bicycles or skateboards, I imagine?” Marsha asked.

“Oh no,” Carl laughed. “That’s the beauty of it. It’s a leisurely environment and you don’t have to worry about rain or being cold in the winter or hot in the summer. It’s life in the suburbs.”

“I’ve been in the city all my life. Lived there since I was a kid, Marsha told Carl. “Took subways and buses everywhere. I don’t even know how to drive.” I’ve actually never been out of New York except to the other boroughs. I can’t imagine not being able to run into a Broadway show on a Saturday afternoon if I have the time and the two-fer window has tickets.”

“What’s a two-fer window?” Carl asked.

“It’s a little booth at Times Square where you can buy tickets to Broadway shows at the last minute if they’re not sold out. You can get two tickets for the price of one. And there are so many movie theaters that you can see movies dating back to, oh, I don’t know when, right up to the new releases. Well, you said you watch Seinfeld, so you know what I’m talking about.”

“I can’t imagine raising kids there. It just seems so, so, I don’t know, closed in,” Carl said. “By the way, if you’ve never been out of the city, what are you doing in the terminal? Where are you headed today?”

“Oh, I’m not going anywhere. Just waiting for a friend who’s coming in from Chicago. To me, that’s like a little city. Sort of like a suburb but I don’t know if they have malls there.”

Monday, January 11, 2010

Final Bow: Billy Hall from Orlando Home & Leisure


My tribute has finally printed in the January 2010 issue of Orlando Home & Leisure Magazine. I imagine those of you outside of Central Florida may not know the name but you can read the article about him at http://www.ohlmag.com/ by clicking on the Online Version. Refer to pages 16 and 17.
I know I have written about Billy back in November when he passed away but he deserves an extra shout out from the jazz community. Tonight the Monday Night Jazz Jam, which he founded, will take place at the Grand Bohemian Hotel in downtown Orlando without him. WLOQ DJ, Yvonne Coleman, will host, as always. Yvonne makes time out of her busy schedule to continue Billy's dreams of helping those in need. All tips at the jam, EVERY PENNY, goes to help feed and clothe people who are cold and hungry. With the current economy and a week of hard freezes in Orlando, the numbers are multiplying. Everybody knows that they are not immune, so those that have, give. We all have to take care of each other. That's what Billy would say.